Raphinha has thanked Marcelo Bielsa for setting him on the road to stardom with Barcelona and Brazil after their time working together at Leeds United.

Tricky winger Raphinha's form for Leeds in the 2021-22 campaign in particular earned him his first caps for Brazil and ultimately led to a big-money switch to Barcelona this month.

The 25-year-old contributed to 29 Premier League goals for Leeds – five more than any team-mate – with his goal involvements helping to keep them in the division last season.

Across his 19 months in England's top flight, only Tottenham's Son Heung-min (131) created more chances than Raphinha's tally of 129, highlighting his creativity.

Raphinha thrived in Bielsa's physically demanding system, and also impressed under the Argentine coach's successor Jesse Marsh in the back end of the previous campaign.

Having now cemented his place in the Brazil squad ahead of the World Cup, and hit the ground running with new club Barca, Raphinha remains indebted to Bielsa.

"He is a coach who helped me a lot from the first moment I arrived at Leeds," Raphinha told Mundo Deportivo. 

"He always demands more, always demands maximum performance. He helped me get to the national team and helped me get to Barca. 

"If it wasn't for his teachings, as a group or individually, I probably wouldn't be here."

 

Raphinha spent only one season at Sporting CP and Rennes before heading to Leeds in October 2020.

Now at a fourth club in as many years, the Porto Alegre native has already made himself a fan favourite with his winning goal in this week's friendly against Real Madrid.

"I hope it'll be the first of many Clasico goals," Raphinha said. "Being a Clasico, it gave me a unique sensation, one that's difficult to explain. It made me very happy."

Robert Lewandowski claims "no one remembers" Bayern Munich's 8-2 victory against his new side Barcelona in the 2020 Champions League quarter-final.

The Poland international played in that game for the German giants, and even scored Bayern's sixth goal before Philippe Coutinho, on loan from Barcelona at the time, added two more late on to rub salt in the wounds.

After embarrassing Barcelona, Bayern went on to become European champions for a sixth time, with a Kingsley Coman winner enough to overcome French side Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the final.

The 8-2 thrashing meant Bayern became the first team ever to score five or more goals against Barcelona in a European Cup or Champions League match.

Lewandowski was quick to discount the importance of that game when questioned about it this week, telling reporters: "No one remembers that anymore.

"Football isn't about what you've done in the past, it's about what you're doing now."

He also referenced the 2013 Champions League, in which he scored four for his former club Borussia Dortmund against Real Madrid in a semi-final first leg.

Lewandowski added: "It's been a long time since we [Dortmund] scored four goals against Real Madrid, it's a long time ago."

Manuel Manos Gonzalbo saw legends of the football world come and go at Barcelona, and on Tuesday the Catalan giants announced the death of the man who became a member in 1932.

Barcelona said Gonzalbo, who died at the age of 101, was number one on their membership list, with the club currently having over 140,000 'socios' who are eligible to vote on significant club issues.

Gonzalbo will have seen superstar figures such as Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi star for Barcelona during his lifetime.

The club said in a statement: "We are sorry to announce the death of Manuel Manos Gonzalbo, holder of FC Barcelona membership number 1, at the age of 101.

"He had been a club member since 5 September 1932. Our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. May he rest in peace."

Barcelona midfielder Miralem Pjanic is hoping to kickstart his Camp Nou career after being given the opportunity to play under head coach Xavi, who he considers a "role model".

Pjanic's days at Barca appeared to be numbered when he was loaned to Besiktas last season, having struggled to hold down a starting spot upon arriving from Juventus in 2020.

Xavi has since replaced Ronald Koeman in the Barca managerial hotseat, however, and Pjanic appears to be part of the legendary former midfielder's plans for the coming season.

The 32-year-old featured in the recent friendly with Olot and is part of the Catalan giants' squad for their pre-season tour of the United States, though he did not play any minutes in Saturday's win against Real Madrid.

Pjanic still has two years to run on his contract and is excited to work with Xavi, who enjoyed a positive first six months in charge during the second half of last season to finish second in LaLiga.

"Xavi has always been a role model of a midfielder for me," Pjanic told reporters. "I have followed him with admiration. For me, he is one of the best midfielders of all time in the world, so working with him is very special.

"In the last two years, I have struggled with injuries, COVID-19, and went out on loan. But now it's different. I am convinced that I can get back to my best. I've been working with a physical trainer this summer."

Asked about his Barca future, Pjanic added: "I have a contract until 2024. This year we will be working with our new teacher Xavi. I hope it will be a very good season for the team and for me."

Barcelona face Pjanic's former club Juventus in their third pre-season outing at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Tuesday, before rounding off their tour of the USA against New York Red Bulls on Saturday.

 

Robert Lewandowski is confident Barcelona will enjoy a better campaign to last season after he made his pre-season debut.

The Poland international secured a move from Bayern Munich to Camp Nou earlier this month, ending one of the summer's longest-running transfer sagas.

Despite his prolific form over the past two seasons - he won the European Golden Shoe in both campaigns - Lewandowski did not find the net in his first game, a friendly against Real Madrid.

But with fellow new recruit Raphinha delivering a moment of magic with his finish to beat Madrid 1-0 in Nevada, the forward certainly feels the future is bright.

"This season will be better than the previous ones, for sure," he stated. "If you play for Barcelona, you always think about winning titles.

"The Champions League is the most striking [prize]. But we have to go step-by-step. Our potential and quality are high, [but] we have to progress during the season to be at the top."

Lewandowski's protracted desire to leave Bayern bred a degree of contempt between player and club, with a public battle played out in the media over his future.

But settled in with Barcelona amid their tour of the United States, the veteran star is already feeling at home, and hopes that comfort will breed success during his stay.

"From the first day, I [felt] very good," he added. "I see that everyone helps me and gives me support. That means a lot to me. I am here to do my best, show my quality and [give] good performances."

On Raphinha, also the successful target of another prolonged transfer saga in his arrival from Leeds, Lewandowski already feels he has struck up a connection.

"We see that he is a great player, with great quality," he said of the Brazil star. "There is a lot of connection. I have seen young players with a lot of potential. With the language of football, it is easier to adapt."

Xavi acknowledged a Barcelona return for Lionel Messi is "impossible" at present but refused to rule out a reunion in future, as he rejected comparisons between himself and two legendary Blaugrana coaches.

Messi's 21-year association with Barcelona came to an end last August when he joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer amid the Catalan club's financial woes.

However, the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner's six league goals during his debut campaign in Paris represented his worst such tally since he netted the same amount in LaLiga as an 18-year-old in 2005-06.

Messi has just one year remaining on his contract in the French capital – though an option exists for a further 12 months with PSG – and Barcelona president Joan Laporta said on Sunday he did not believe the Argentine's Barca story was over.

His former team-mate and current Barcelona coach Xavi, however, told a news conference such a move was unfeasible, at least for now. 

"He has a contract and it's impossible right now," Xavi said, looking ahead to Barca's friendly with Juventus in Dallas on Tuesday.

"Messi is the best footballer in the world and in history. President Laporta already said that Messi's story with Barca is not over, but now is not the time to talk about it."

 

On a personal level, Xavi has enjoyed success since returning to Barcelona as head coach last November, leading the side to a second-placed league finish after they had languished in ninth under predecessor Ronald Koeman.

Barca are now expected to challenge for silverware after acquiring the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha, but Xavi insists he does not seek comparisons with legendary Blaugrana bosses Pep Guardiola and Johan Cruyff. 

"I don't have the idea of equalling Pep, what I want is for Barca to win," he added.

"It's not a question of ego, I don't want to beat Pep or Johan or anyone. On the contrary, I have nurtured myself from them, I am a student of theirs. 

"My dream is to return Barca to the top of the world."

Despite their perilous financial situation, Barcelona have recruited heavily throughout the transfer window, and with Sevilla and France defender Jules Kounde reportedly also close to joining, their spending does not look likely to stop any time soon.

And Xavi believes the capture of Lewandowski demonstrates the lure of the Catalan giants, adding: "It's not for me, it's for the club. What I do is speak clearly with the players. 

"Everything adds up, but I would say that the club is the one that has strength, its greatness is a magnet for footballers. 

"People are excited to play at Barca, the fact that players of the stature of Lewandowski want to come proves it."

Newcastle United are planning a move for out-of-favour Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Julian Draxler, with the Germany international's price tag believed to be in the range of £25million (€29.5m).

Draxler, 28, has spent the past six seasons with the French giants, but his last campaign was mostly from a bench role, with 13 of his 18 Ligue 1 appearances coming as a substitute.

He also had two separate injuries that forced him to miss over a month each time, but with 58 senior caps for Germany and a World Cup right around the corner, he could be a savvy purchase for a club desperate for a marquee signing.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE ENQUIRE ABOUT VERY AVAILABLE DRAXLER

According to French publication Le 10 Sport, Draxler is on Paris Saint-Germain director of football Luis Campos' "blacklist" of players who have no future at the club.

The report says he has been asked to find a way out, and with a relatively low price tag – around half the £40m demanded by Lyon in Newcastle's reported pursuit of Lucas Paqueta – the stars could be aligning for the Magpies to land an established international on a cheaper deal.

Draxler was left out of PSG's pre-season squad for the recent tour of Japan, indicating he already has one foot out the door, but it remains to be seen if Newcastle will be his landing spot.

ROUND-UP

Chelsea are reportedly willing to part ways with Timo Werner, with Foot Mercato claiming the forward was included in an offer to former club RB Leipzig  in exchange for defender Nordi Mukiele, who appears to be PSG-bound.

– Sport believes Chelsea will block Barcelona moves for Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso due to the Spanish club's chase of Blues target Jules Kounde.

– The Guardian is reporting that Gianluca Scamacca will have his medical this week before confirming a £35.5m move from Sassuolo to West Ham.

– According to Calciomercato, Milan have increased their bid for Club Brugge midfielder Charles de Ketelaere to €32m, and are also trying to secure a move for Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech.

Barcelona have told Memphis Depay to find a new club after Robert Lewandowski's arrival, according to AS.

Robert Lewandowski has made a strong first impression at Barcelona, with manager Xavi calling him "an unbelievable signing".

Lewandwoski made his first appearance for his new club in their 1-0 friendly win against Real Madrid on Saturday, starting up top before being subbed off at half-time.

The 2021 Ballon d'Or runner-up is coming off seven consecutive seasons of at least 40 goals in club competition, with Barcelona hoping he is still at the peak of his powers despite turning 34 years old next month.

Speaking to the media about the club's new front-man, Xavi had nothing but praise.

"[Lewandowski] has adapted really well," he said. "He's very humble – he's won almost everything in the world of football. 

"He has the humility to work hard for the team, and for us he's an unbelievable signing. So really good, really happy to have Robert in the team, and [against Madrid] he adapted really well. 

"He controlled the ball when Madrid pressed high, he understood really well when it was his moment to control and play for the attacking midfielders or for the defensive midfielder. 

"He went deep many times, so we are talking about the top player in the world of football."

Barcelona boss Xavi insists he was not trying to send any message to Frenkie de Jong by playing him out of position in defence after being subbed on at half-time in their 1-0 friendly win against Real Madrid.

De Jong, 25, has been at the centre of Barcelona's transfer discussions this off-season, with the widespread belief that the club must sell him to balance their books after expensive moves for Leeds United winger Raphinha and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.

The Dutch international is not totally inexperienced in defence, but he is undoubtedly more comfortable in the centre of midfield, but with plenty of competition for that position, Xavi said he was simply taking advantage of De Jong's versatility.

"No, I didn't send any messages," he said. "I think [De Jong] can be adapted. 

"The message is personal and already chatted with him. He knows he is valued. I value him a lot as a footballer – he knows… for me, he is a fundamental footballer for the team's game. 

"Then, I insist, there is an economic situation in the club, the situation of [financial] fair play, but for me there is no doubt that he is a very important footballer, and playing as a central defender he can give us many things. 

"We have signed Andreas [Chistensen], we also have Eric [Garcia], we have Gerard [Pique], we have Ronald [Araujo] there, who can also adapt as a full-back.

"We now have a lot of competition and that is good for the team, but Frenkie can adapt very well as a centre-back. He sees the game very well when he controls the ball, he doesn't lose the ball and I like it. 

"No, that position is not a message. I would never do it as a coach."

Barcelona's next friendly is against Juventus on Tuesday.

New Juventus signing Paul Pogba has suffered a knee injury and will not be part of the team that travels to Dallas to take on Barcelona in a friendly on Tuesday.

The France international recently returned to the club where he previously spent four years between 2012 and 2016, winning four Serie A titles in that period.

But it now appears that Pogba will be spending time on the sidelines, after Juventus released a statement updating fans on the status of the 29-year-old.

The statement on the club's official website said: "Following complaining of pain in his right knee, Paul Pogba underwent radiological examinations that revealed a lesion of the lateral meniscus.

"In the next few hours he will undergo a specialist orthopedic consultation.

"Therefore, in order to continue treatment, he is not taking part in the trip to Dallas."

Pogba's previous spell with the Bianconeri came to an end when Manchester United paid a then-world-record fee of £89.3million (€105m) to take the midfielder back to Old Trafford, where he had spent time as a youngster.

However, after an ultimately underwhelming six-year spell in Manchester, Pogba rejoined Juventus following the expiration of his United contract.

Ansu Fati is confident he can return to his previous heights after an injury-plagued couple of seasons for Barcelona. 

Fati burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old in 2019, becoming the second-youngest player to feature for Barca in LaLiga and the third-youngest to find the back of the net in Spain's top flight. 

He set records as the youngest goalscorer in the Champions League, for Spain and in El Clasico – though his international record has since been surpassed by Gavi. 

Fati sat out almost a year with a serious knee injury sustained in November 2020 and hamstring problems limited him to just 15 appearances in all competitions last season. 

However, he is confident he will eventually be the player he was before his torrid time with injuries. 

"I'm working to achieve it and I have no doubt that with work and sacrifice I will achieve it," Fati told TV3. "Right now I'm not 100 per cent, but I'm very close. 

"It's normal that when you come back from an injury you play very cautiously. But that's only the first minutes of the first game, then you forget it. Right now, I'm playing without fear. 

"I know where I've come from and everything I've done to be here. I never thought about quitting. I'm very young, and I have my whole future ahead of me." 

Fati will face increased competition for game time following the arrivals of Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha at Camp Nou, but he feels such competition can help restore Barca to their former glories. 

"We are building a very good team, very competitive. The new signings will give us a lot throughout the season. They are great players who will help us," said Fati. 

"We have a very powerful forward line and a lot of competition. It's very good for the team and the players that we can't relax. We know that if we don't work hard, we're not going to play because someone else can take out place. This is good because it will always keep us on edge. 

"This is a team that wants to win titles. We know that in recent years we've only won the Copa del Rey and that cannot be enough at Barca." 

Gary Neville believes that Frenkie de Jong should "consider legal action" against Barcelona.

The Netherlands international is a target for Manchester United, who have reportedly agreed a fee with Barca for the former Ajax midfielder.

However, De Jong is supposedly keen to remain at Barca, while it has also been claimed the Spanish club owe the 25-year-old €20million in wages.

That is after De Jong deferred his wages in order to help Barca deal with their financial difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet in spite of their financial issues, Barca have brought in a number of big-money signings this transfer window, including Robert Lewandowski from Bayern Munich and Raphinha from Leeds United.

And United great Neville believes that De Jong should consider taking Barcelona to court over their failure to pay him the wages he deferred to help out the club.

He tweeted: "De Jong should consider legal action v Barcelona and all players should be behind him!

"A club spending fortunes on new players whilst not paying the ones they have under contract their full money is immoral and a breach."

He also called upon FIFPRO, the representative organisation for professional footballers, to take action against what Neville calls "bullying."

 

Edu is delighted that Arsenal managed to sign first-choice transfer targets Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko despite missing out on Champions League football last term.

However, the club's technical director also revealed Raphinha was never close to moving to the Emirates Stadium, with the now-Barcelona winger having always prioritised a move to Camp Nou.

Arsenal have been active in the transfer market after a late-season collapse saw rivals Tottenham secure a top-four Premier League finish at their expense in May, outspending every other side in the top flight do far.

Alongside former Manchester City duo Jesus and Zinchenko, Mikel Arteta's side have recruited Porto's Fabio Vieira, New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner, and young Sao Paulo winger Marquinhos, and Edu revealed Arsenal's lack of Champions League football has not been too inhibitive in securing their foremost targets. 

"[We signed] almost 100 per cent of them," he told Sky Sports. "I understand sometimes players want to play Champions League football, but I think we can offer something very special for the players as well.

"It's not only Champions League, but you can be part of a group of players which can achieve something very special for this football club. And then I always ask them if they want to be part of the project we've been building.

"I'm sure we will do something very special for this football club and then when I explain to the players, they really understand [it] and that's why they're here."

Zinchenko made just 10 Premier League starts for City last season, playing a total of 1,044 minutes in the competition, but Edu is delighted with the signing of the Ukraine star after targeting him for six months.

"We are so excited to have Zinchenko with us here because he's a player that we really targeted," he added.

"It's a player that we really believe has the characteristics and the qualities that are going to increase our level in the squad for sure. [The transfer] was planned like six months ago, to feed that position in the best way possible in the way which Mikel really wants to play.

"Mikel of course knows him more than anyone because they worked together [at City] but all the information around the player is top."

Edu also revealed the signing of Jesus was the culmination of another drawn-out process, adding: "I think we as a club have to be proud to have a player like Gabriel Jesus here.

"This process really, I think, takes like seven months in terms of understanding each other and talking to each other, because also he had a lot of other opportunities and then he chooses because he understands who we are."

Raphinha was another player linked with Arsenal after scoring 11 goals in 35 Premier League appearances for Leeds United last season.

However, he made a big-money move to Barcelona earlier this month, and while Arsenal did speak to the winger's agent Deco, Edu revealed his heart was set on a move to Camp Nou.

"People think we went in too deep about Raphinha, because Raphinha was everywhere," Edu said. "It's fair, we did have some conversations with Deco because Deco is his agent and I have a good relationship [with him] - we are friends.

"I just said to Deco, 'can you explain to me the situation with Raphinha?' and he was clear, 'Edu, we have a good relationship but I'm not going to lie to you, his idea is to go to Barcelona because he's dreaming to go to Barcelona, and we've been talking to Barcelona since a long time ago'.

"[I said] 'okay, thank you very much, if something happens then just let me know because I can explore and understand the situation'. If not, no problem and we carry on with our relationship."

Despite winning LaLiga and the Champions League last season, Real Madrid want to secure a bright future to follow their trophy-laden present.

Having confirmed the signings of Aurelien Tchouameni and Antonio Rudiger this off-season, Madrid managed to bolster their squad in two areas of the pitch.

Meanwhile, they are on the verge of securing the long-term futures of three foundational pieces in those successes last term.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID TO SECURE BRAZILIAN TRIO

Real Madrid are all but set to confirm renewed contracts for their Brazilian trio of Eder Militao, Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Despite tricky initiations for each, all three have now established themselves as vital players under Carlo Ancelotti, as evidenced by their new release clauses.

Militao and Rodrygo have reportedly extended to June 2028, with respective €500million and €1billion release clauses.

After a breakout season, culminating with his goal in May's Champions League final, Vinicius will reportedly extend to June 2027, along with a €1bn release clause.

 

ROUND-UP

– Manchester United are now considering a move for Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic as an alternative to Frenkie de Jong, Calciomercato is reporting.

– Juventus have made a €23m (£19.5m) move for Liverpool's Roberto Firmino as they finalise the termination of Aaron Ramsey's contract, according to Tuttomercatoweb.

Jules Kounde's departure from Sevilla appears likelier with the defender close to agreeing personal terms with Barcelona, per Fabrizio Romano.

– Arsenal have confirmed their interest in Lucas Paqueta but are yet to make Lyon an offer, The Times has reported.

Robert Lewandowski feels like he has been at Barcelona "for months" after making his first appearance for the Blaugrana in Saturday's El Clasico win against Real Madrid.

The exhibition game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas was decided by a wonderful goal from another new man, Raphinha, as Xavi's side ran out 1-0 winners.

Lewandowski could not find the net on debut but saw a fierce strike at goal pushed away by Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in the first half.

The Polish striker only officially became a Barca player last week, but explained after the game to Barca TV and TV3 how settled he is already feeling.

"Although it was a friendly, the Clasico is the Clasico and it is always different and special, and we are very happy with the quality and intensity that we have shown," Lewandowski said.

"I'm very happy to be here and to be part of this team. I don't feel like I've been with the team for days, it feels like I've been with the team for months. I feel very supported by both my team-mates and the staff."

Despite their well-reported financial issues, Barca have been very active in the transfer window, bringing in Lewandowski, Raphinha, Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen so far, while also being linked with a move for Jules Kounde from Sevilla.

The former Bayern Munich hotshot is anticipating a successful first campaign in Spain, and discussed the winning mentality at his new club.

"We always think about winning," he added. "We have a very winning mentality, not only in games but also in training.

"We have the opportunity to look forward and think that this can be a great season."

Barca begin their LaLiga campaign at home to Rayo Vallecano on August 13.

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